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The Gun Culture of Crete and World War II Memories

The island of Crete is home to great traditions and proud, defiant people who function mainly on tight kinship and friendship ties. Greece’s largest and southernmost island has 620,000 people and its rich, fertile land and gorgeous seaside make it a self-sufficient heaven for locals.
Politico magazine featured an extensive article about Cretans’ attitude toward Germany and Europe in light of the recent bailout deal Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reached with the country’s international creditors and the acrimony between Greece and Germany over the former’s request for war reparations and the latter’s insistence on austerity for the debt-stricken country.
The wounds the German occupying forces left on the island have not yet healed. The recent negotiations over Greece’s debt have unearthed vivid memories for the descendants of those who fought in the Battle of Crete and later in the resistance during the Nazi occupation (1941-1943).
“Over 1,000 Cretan villages were destroyed by the Germans during the war,” said a local. “Then of course there’s the famous occupation ‘loan’ the Germans forced the Greek government to give them. They took 90% of Greece’s gold reserves — all this to feed their troops,” added the Cretan.
And he continued: “Skeletons of hundreds of children were found. I think we should put all those in an album and send it to [German Finance Minister Wolfgang] Schaeuble for his birthday.”
Another local vents his hatred for Germany and its Finance Minister: “The German government hates Greece because of the 1941-1943 events. Germany, Schaeuble in particular, has a vindictive rage against our country, especially Crete, because his father was one of the Nazis killed in the Battle of Maleme Airport.” Schaeuble’s father’s grave, he insisted, is in the German cemetery here in Crete.
As for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, she is another hate target for many Cretans. The magazine asked a farmer what he would say to Merkel if she came to Crete. “Nothing,” he replied. “I would spit on her face.”
“Right between the eyes… That’s what I’d give Merkel,” another local said while he blasted his shotgun into the air with a broad smile.
Crete and guns go together. It is the only area in Greece where gun possession is permitted as a tradition. A group of people showed their rifles and fire them into the air. One local excitedly pointed to one that he said their grandfather used in World War II. “It has killed real Germans,” he said. A man turned up with an automatic machine gun. “There are two things that will never disappear from the Cretan inland. Food and guns.”
During the recent July 5 referendum, the highest “No” vote (with 73.27%) in the whole of the country was recorded in Crete (in Chania, the island’s second largest city).
“I voted ‘No’ because both the Greek government and the Eurozone are taking advantage of the Greek people. They want to take advantage of Greece — and especially Crete, because of our geographical position. That was why Germany wanted to occupy the country, and especially Crete, during World War II, and that’s why they want to occupy us economically now,” said a farmer.
When asked about the recent news that Tsipras is ready to sign a deal with creditors, they all replied they feel let down after the “No” vote. “He should be executed,” an outspoken local said.

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